Rega Planet vs Cal Audio Labs Icon MK II

I'm thinking about upgrading my CD player (Cambridge D300) and have a choice between these two used players. Both have been discontinued and are/were fine CD players. The Planet would be in the area of $500 and Icon MK II around $750. I'm an old country boy - I don't know a lot about high end audio, but am picking things up quickly with your help. Once again - Thanks in advance! Ken
Klender: The Icon MK II (without the Powerboss/HDCD upgrade) should sell used and in very good condition for around $400-$450. That said it is a much better player than the Planet in musical accuracy while still maintaining a smooth analog quality. The CAL is laid back and the Planet is laid down and died, IMO (sorry Planet owners). I use the CAL now as a transport with a Bel Canto DAC. and would highly recommend that you also make a basic isolation platform for the player from MDF and Vibrapods. The Pods are $24.00 and the piece of MDF should only be a few dollars or better yet use a piece of maple instead. You should probably make the platform for whichever player you decide on and Craig @ Vibrapod will give you good advice on how to do it. Players without isolation components only sound half as good as they can from my experience. That said the extra $30.00 or so spent (at the least) is money well spent.
Ken, first off, beware of anyone telling you what something SOUNDS like! Only your ears are attached to your cerebral cortex and can tell you. Secondly, don't worry about not being all that familiar with high end. I find that the most virgin ears are often the most discerning because they haven't been corrupted by already hearing everything. IMHO, you should avoid getting caught up in stuff like sounds "dark" or "laid-back" or "smooth" or "liquid" or whatever". If you put your ear next to a cymbal and smack it, it doesn't make a smooth or pleasing sound, it makes a harsh sound. Words like smooth or liquid or laid-back or boomy or etched etc. are only used to describe audio equipment, NOT MUSIC! That being said, I am very familiar with both players and I prefer (not that you would) the Rega because to me the Rega sounds more natural or musical. That's the whole idea, get the stereo out of the way so I can enjoy the music. After that, the Rega is much simpler to use and one thing to consider now that the economy is slowing to a crawl and it seems that another high-end company that has been around for a while is going out of business every week, (Hales, Wadia, Golden Tube, etc.) you want to be reasonably sure that whether you buy your equipment new or used, the company has a reasonable chance of being around in the future. Again, IMHO, Rega is better financed and more well known (especially in the UK where people still seem to be more interested in audio and not home-theater).
I'm not familar with the Cal., however, I do own a Rega Planet. I perfered the planet as a stand alone to a seperate transport and a Meridian 563, which I owned prior. In other words, I find it pleasing and musical and not at all the way the first poster states. Naimboy makes several good points that you should keep in mind when picking your player. Good luck.
I in-home tested the Rega for a week or so prior to buying a player, and to be honest, I was a little disappointed given the reviews of the Planet. I was using a Sony DVP-S7700 for CD playback at the time, and found the Sony a better choice, hence it was back to searching for me.

Naimboy, I would like to disagree with your post, however, concerning words used in describing music reproduction. While I certainly can't claim that they are all valid, I don’t know that I’ve heard them all, nor do I know if I can, but aren’t these simply people's efforts in trying to elucidate an auditory response? Not something all that easy to do, but isn't that what magazine reviews, buyer’s guides, and indeed this forum is all about? Trying to explain the fragrance of a rose certainly is a chore, but hasn't stopped so many from penning what they've enjoyed (or not). That being said, I agree, and your point hit the mark ... your ears are your ears, and everyone should listen to a piece of equipment before they leap.

My opinion, for what it's worth.
I have enjoyed my Cal Ikon II for 4 years now. Dekay is right, 750.00 is a bit much on the used market, and the player is smooth and laid back as far as digital goes. Naimboy, try having somebody hit the cymbal while you stand a good distance from it, a good cymbal should sound very smooth unless there is a big crack in it.
Gentleman, I believe this Icon MK II unit comes with the HDCD (Powerboss)upgrade. Would that upgrade justify the $750 price the seller wants. How can I tell if the unit has the Powerboss upgrade anyway?
I love my planet. I have only heard the cl-15, which is also an excellent sounding cd. The planet needs to be left on, for some reason, it sounds a little flat unless it has been on about 12 hours. THe depth increases greatly after a good month of occasional useage. I would suggest buying one from an Audiogon member with good feedback. Try it, and sell it if you dont like it. You should be able to get even money when you sell, and at the worst, lose $50. I have been using this method of auditioning, and I think it allows you to audition a product without any pressure. Afterall, you've already bought it. Resale on a planet is $450-500 according to my random observation. I bought mine new for $650 in 1999. While I can't comment on this particular CAL player, the Planet, properly set up, is most definately "laid down and died" Sorry Dekay. Ask Listener and Stereophile. Yeah yeah, I know, but when Stereophile really likes an inexpensive product, you really must take notice. I totally agree with JA's ears. TRUST YOUR OWN EARS.
SOrry, Associated equipment, which hasnt been mentioned as of yet!!! CJ PV11L preamp, MCCormack DNA.5 amp, B&W Nautilus 805 speakers, Audioquest Diamond x3 and Lapis x3 interconnects, and Audioquest SA-40 and CV-4 biwire speaker cable. THe Rega is a musical and very Undigital sounding one piece player, not the best in the world, but you cant beat it dollar for dollar.
Sorry Gthirteen and not sorry Naimbrain. I should have been a little more PC in my comments about the Planet. This was just my take on it after auditioning it in two shops when I was looking for a player for my stepson. And it does depend on the associated equipment (I knew that and was just not thinking of the whole picture at the time - excuse me)! Klhender - there was an Icon -w- the Power Boost and HDCD upgrade listed at this site by Ambrosia Audio for $400.00 which is a steal, if it's still there. But by all means you should audition both these and other players as well if at all possible before you laying your money down. Others to look into in your price range might be the Audio Refinement Complete (which I owned for a short while and would recommend). I would also check out the new revised Cambridge models as they have had time to fine tune them, hopefully for the better. Search the site under CD and you will find a lot of user info on reasonably priced but high quality CD players. In regard to the descriptive terms that I used (and use), I was an amateur and later a professional musician for twenty years and "those" are some of the terms that are used to describe the tonality of instruments (music) including voice. I don't know what Planet (get it) you grew up on Naimboy but most popular music is amplified in some manner and the same terms apply among musicians with the exception of "visual" terms such as imaging and sound stage (the recording and sound tech's are the ones that worry about that part of it). In addition, I was talking about a CD player not your mother and it would do you well to lose the snot nosed little attitude that you bring to your post. You might also restrict your comments to things that you know something about, unless your sole purpose here is to amuse myself and others. Well, so much for my New Year's resolution.
I have had the CAL Icon MK II with PowerBoss upgrade for four years and have enjoyed it very much. $700.00 may be about right with the PowerBoss, but you should make sure that is what you are getting. (I don't think the regular Icon MK II has HDCD, so that might be how you know) I haven't auditioned the Planet, but based on reviews I have read, I suspect for the relatively small price difference in buying these units used, you may find the Cal much more rewarding. Since I bought my Icon, I have updgraded the rest of my system (an ongoing process) to a Levison 380S and Moon W-5 amp, and you know, even with the increased transperency of those units, I have not been particularly eager to replace the CAL. (Though I will eventually do so). That speaks well for this CD player.
Here's another possibility: the California Audio Labs DX2 is several hundred dollars cheaper than the Icon MKII, yet not far from it in sound. An excellent midlevel choice!
Yeah, I have a DX-2 and have enjoyed it. I payed 550.00 for it 2 years ago. I figured I have gotten my $ worth at this point. I auditioned the Icon MKII at the same time and on the same speakers I have at home. The Icon was just a tad maybe only a tidge smoother. At the time the MKII with HDCD was almost twice as much. I couldn't reason the extra dough so I went with the DX-2
Dekay, I was interested in your comments. I am considering a Bel Canto Dac to use in conjuction with my DX-2. What do you think? I have also wondered about the use of the vibrapods, as I have not tried them. I don't have room on my rack to install the shelf with vibra's you describe. Couldn't I just take the feet off the DX-2 and replace with the vibrapod feet? I hope no one minds my interlude in this thread.
Agree that $700 is high for the CAL, but if you have a $700 budget I suggest that you expand the field and listen to more equipment. You may be able to find something considerably better than either of these players at this price point.
Hi Axomoxa: I have been away with computer problems and just came back on line. If the Dx-2 has a coaxial/digital out I don't see why it would not make a nice transport. Yes, replacing the existing feet with Pods is an option, or if the Pods have a higher profile than the existing feet you may try placing them just to the inside of the stock feet. I have been doing more experimenting with a combination of Pods, Cones, and various platforms and it is getting a little mind boggling, to say the least. I still feel that the initial installation of the Vibrapods added major improvement to the sound of the player and that if you can only do one thing then damping the component from external vibration (with Pods) is a good place place to start. The second thing to do at a later time would be to "draw off" vibration from the component with the aid of cones, when more vertical space becomes available. Anyway, just try the Pods and if you do not here the improvement, send them back. Good luck with it. David.
PS: I meant to say/write coaxial/digital input (not output).
I would also consider a SCD-333 Sony. It would be about $800 mail order new with warranty. Check out I believe that you not only would have superior CD play to what you are considering, but you would have SACD capability.